Sprinting through colourful stages while collecting sweet gold bricks makes for one addictive formula. However, does Commander Video's third endless runner do enough to make this established gameplay exciting again?
For the unfamiliar, Gaijin Games (now Choice Provisions) released the fourth game in their Bit.Trip series back in 2010 which was simply known as Runner. It had players captivated by its simple gameplay where all you do is perpetually move forward and tap buttons in order to jump, slide, and kick your way past obstacles all while collecting any gold bars that you can. It also featured a nifty power-up system where every time you collect one, the music becomes more fleshed out. Thankfully, all of these elements have persisted even all the way to Runner3. This time around, things are a lot more complicated as Commander Video now has to trigger springboards, drive vehicles and pilot aircrafts, switch planes at branching paths, and even fight bosses. The gameplay is super-challenging and ultimately rewarding for anyone who's up for testing their skills and all this variety only adds to the fun.
Runner3 is set in a goofy world that verges on being disturbing. It's kind of like watching Ren & Stimpy: at times, I laughed out loud and I felt a bit queasy during other times. That being said, there's no denying how appealing the world is with its intricately detailed stages and colourful environments. You'll find yourself within the themed worlds of Foodland, Spookyland, and Machineland as well as Retro Challenges included in The Great Outdoors, The Caves, and Jungle Ruins. It's fun stuff to discover where you'll end up next. To top it all off, you're treated to a delightful soundtrack that'll get your toes tapping which actually makes the gameplay a bit easier because you'll often find yourself jumping and sliding to the beat. It may be unconventional but Runner3 looks and sounds fantastic.
The campaign in Runner3 is huge. Simply going through the stages will likely take the average gamer plenty of hours and retries and there are also unlockable stages that are nearly impossible to complete. On the other end of the equation, the boss fights are more clear-cut and you'll find yourself battling The Sausage Santa, Parliament of Owls, Reverse Mermech, Leaf Scarickson, The Widow Sisters, and last but not least, The Temple of Gloom. Even if you manage to beat all the stages, you can try to achieve perfection in each one as well as travel down optional gem paths and unlock a wealth of extra content including puppets, hero quest items, and character medallions. You can even unlock 9 extra characters and purchase an assortment of costumes, capes, and accessories for them.
Even through all of this content is great, I wish there were more modes besides just trying to master stages. For example, a multiplayer component would have been a ton of fun. The only other primary negative aspect of Runner3 is just how brutally difficult it is. If you're a casual gamer then you should avoid this sucker at all costs. It can be frustrating right out of the gate so if you don't have the patience to learn how to get better then it definitely isn't the game for you. Even if you're a seasoned veteran gamer, some parts still feel unfair. Whenever something seemingly jumps at you from out of nowhere, it's hard not to feel like you were cheated. Having to memorize things like this makes the gameplay feel more like a chore at times, especially considering how few checkpoints there are.
Even though it's the third game in the series, Runner3 is full of a surprising amount of variety and challenges to master. Just make sure you have plenty of patience before lacing up your sneakers; you're going to need it!
- + Highly challenging yet rewarding gameplay with a surprising amount of variety
- + Hilarious wacky world and great tunes
- + Huge campaign that's full of replay value
- - Casual gamers will hit a high difficulty wall shortly into the campaign
- - Could use more modes (like multiplayer)
- - Some parts require memorization to beat